Whole food diet and low sugar diet (low Glycemic Index Diet) are my favorite healthy diet choices. There are endless diet in today's world. Some promise to help you lose weight, some cure certain disease, some are trendy and some are with longer history. We all know proper food intake is important but which one should you choose to follow? How do you know it is going to benefit your health? What is the side effects?
Everyone is unique and you have to adjust and discuss with a doctor you trust. In general, extreme changes of diet is not sustainable in the long term. You might see some benefit in the short term but it will backfire and return you to a worse position. Cutting down a food group completely is usually not a good idea, unless your doctor advises you so because of your health issues. The key word is balance, not deprive.
Whole Food Diet
My preferred diet, after trying several popular ones, is the whole food diet combining with low sugar (low Glycemic) diet. What is Whole food diet? It is eating food in a more original, less processed form. We have too many processed junk food in modern society. We eat it for every occasions and excuses: Pizza, ice cream, chocolate, bagel, chips, soda, cookies, fast food for celebrating and depressing times. It becomes rare to have a real meal either from home cooking or in a restaurant. These food are lacking in the real nutrition, and the added chemical, filler and coloring definitely will harm our body to various degrees. So avoid them, with some will power, planning and anti-social strategies. It is not going to be easy but can be done.
Low Sugar Diet or Low Glycemic Index Diet
Low sugar diet, or low Glycemic Index diet, is similar to the Whole food diet. First, avoid all processed food that contains high sugar. Second, reduce food high in Glycemic Index (GI). See below for examples of high GI food. Too much sugar in our body causes inflammatory reaction, making us tired, aging quickly, and can not function to our best. Low sugar food keeps us feel full longer, and high sugar food might give us a sugar high briefly, but will give us sugar crash and low energy quickly too. You can not and should not completely cut out sugar from diet. But learning what is good sugar and what is bad one will make you choose better in the future. Balance is more important and a strict diet unless you have certain disease and your doctor advise so (for example, if you have Diabetes, be very careful of the sugar content you eat).
Glycemic Index of Food
Glycemic index measures how the food affects our blood sugar level. High GI food raises blood sugar level quickly and low GI food raises blood sugar slowly. Here are some examples of food in different GI levels.
- High-GI foods: white rice, white bread, white bagels, cookies, soda
- Medium-GI foods: bananas, grapes, spaghetti, raisins, corn
- Low-GI foods: oatmeal, peanuts, milk, most fruits and vegetables
Because starch transform to sugar easily, most carbohydrate are in the high GI category. Instead, eating more whole grain or multi grain food is a better choice. On the other hand, most fruits have high sugar content but they are all natural and unprocessed, so it is fine to eat moderately. Again anything in excess is not balanced, and our body will protest and show up in some kind of disease.
How about artificial sweeteners?
Since they are not the natural form of food, I would not recommend them. A little bit of real sugar and honey is better than a lot of artificial sweeteners with chemicals you can not pronounce, in my opinion. Most artificial sugar are developed pretty recently and lack the long term proof of their safety. One sugar alternative I like is Stevia. Since Stevia is from leaves of a plant you can actually grow in your backyard, it seems much more natural and safe to ingest. But, it is still a sugar so use in moderation.
What about drinks? Water is always the best. Most soup is good too as long as not too much salt added. Bone broth from organic chicken or other animals make dense nutrition that is nourishing for our body. Vegetable soup is also great if you do not like animal products.
Coffee and tea are fine, depending on how sensitive you react to the caffeine. Make sure you pick high quality coffee and tea for pureness and less contamination. Sugar or creamer should not be added to your coffee or tea. Many creamers are not natural and not healthy. Next time read the label and you will see how bad it can be. Adding moderate milk to coffee or tea is fine. Some people argue that milk, egg and cheese are not healthy for you. Unless you have certain allergy or condition, I do think eating a little bit of everything is good for your body.
Alcohol is fine for occasional drinking, but remember it adds burden to our liver and many people simply cannot process alcohol fully in their body. For example, many Asian races and women are especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Know your limit and choose other alternative if possible.
What not to drink? Coke, soda, energy drinks should be banned. Anything with high fructose corn syrup should not be consumed. Fruit juice often has too much sugar and should be controlled in moderate amount. Cider is usually less processed than most commercial juice, but again check the label and make your own decision. Fresh squeezed juice is better than commercial juice in a bottle, and real fruit is even better than juice.
Whole food diet and low sugar diet is actually not a special diet at all. It is just a natural way of gathering fresh ingredients, simple cooking with minimal added processing. It has been existed for a long history in many parts of the world. What makes it so unique now is its fighting against modern western diet, aka. processed junk food or convenient food. Highly processed food are available everywhere for every occasion. If we can find a way to stick to natural whole food and minimal sugar intake, we are on our way to optimal health. It is the first step to take control of our own health.